Set aside spaces in 'elite' schools for kids from lower-income homes

I admire Singapore's attitude to publicly take notice of the increasingly stubborn problem of inequality and to try and find ways to deal with it, or at least minimise it (Govt tackling inequality early from pre-school: Shanmugam; April 21).

I agree that it must be tackled very early on in a child's life.

I often hear that Singapore's schools, especially its "elite" schools, have become more like silos, where children from mostly middle-class or affluent families study. The children who study there meet only others from similar backgrounds, which promotes groupthink and discourages diversity.

This exclusivity is exacerbated by the higher property prices in locations close to the schools.

Those from lower-income families are unable to live near the schools and so have little chance of enrolling in them.

Other countries have tried to solve this problem.

In the United States, the authorities have, from time to time, mandated that elite suburban schools admit a certain percentage of children from poorer homes to promote diversity and expose both sets of children to each other. Such children, who may not live nearby, are bussed to school.

In India's Delhi state, most private schools have to admit a certain percentage of children from the "disadvantaged" social class.

This helps to create a mix and forces children from different backgrounds to interact daily with each other.

The hope is that this will further mutual understanding across social divides, and help some children from lower-income families get access to better quality education, which can help them to get better jobs later in life.

It may be worthwhile for Singapore to explore such models.

Inequality poses great danger to social cohesiveness. Creative solutions are needed now to deflect the possibility of social fracturing in future years.

Tara Dhar Hasnain (Mrs)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2018, with the headline 'Set aside spaces in 'elite' schools for kids from lower-income homes'. Print Edition | Subscribe